What Happens After You’re Arrested in Pennsylvania?

This video features Frank Walker, a Criminal Law attorney based in Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains

Video Transcript:

Frank Walker:

Next thing you know, you're being led out of your house in handcuffs simply because you tried to talk your way out of it. Don't do that.

Rob Rosenthal:

So if you or someone you know gets arrested in Pennsylvania, what can you expect? Well, that's what we're gonna find out right now, 'cause that's what we're gonna ask the lawyer on this episode. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com. My guest is Pennsylvania attorney Frank Walker. I'll remind you right off the top, if you wanna ask Frank questions about your situation, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button up at the top of the page, it says ask a lawyer and walk it right through the process, or you can simply call the phone number you'll see on the screen during our conversation, Frank. Good to see us always. I appreciate you helping us out.

Frank Walker:

Thanks for having me Rob. It's good to see you also.

Rob Rosenthal:

Let's just start. Someone's arrested. Suspicion of a crime. What is your recommendation? What do they do first? Maybe first, second, third. What's some of your advice there?

Frank Walker:

Well, a lot of times people are not experienced when they've been arrested for the crime, this is their first arrest, which is a good and bad thing, it's a good thing because you don't have prior convictions, you don't have a prior record, so odds are you're gonna get first time offender treatment. The bad thing is that now you're looking at it as your anxiety has taken over and you're wondering what could happen and automatically you go to the worst possible scenario, you're looking at... You're thinking about jail, you're talking about prison, you think about everything, and you start asking people for information instead of asking a criminal defense attorney about what you should do if you are arrested or investigate, being investigated for a crime, immediately contact a criminal defense attorney because you may talk your way into something by speaking to the officer thinking, I'm just gonna try to talk my way out of it, that's a huge misunderstanding. Next thing you know, you're being led out of your house in handcuffs simply because you tried to talk your way out of it. Don't do that. If you're being investigated, someone's at the door asking you questions or you're actually arrested for a crime, remain silent, you have the right to remain silent. Invoke that right. Use that right. Remain silent, let the attorney talk on your behalf because they know what to do and what to expect.

Rob Rosenthal:

Well, like you said, people are starting to think, you know, you think of the worst. And you have no idea of what the process is like. So let's talk about the process a little bit. Let's talk about that first court appearance, what is that... Is that called a preliminary arraignment? How does that work... Take us through that a little bit.

Frank Walker:

Yes, that's an excellent question. The process works as such, you get arrested either by in handcuffs, or you get arrested by summons, which they send you a certified letter, big thick envelope, That's coming to your house or to your PO box, and you have to sign for it. You get your preliminary arraignment. Now, if you are arrested in handcuffs, your preliminary arraignment gonna be usually within 72 hours where they place you before a judge, the judge reads you the charges you say Not guilty, and they set a bond, and then a preliminary hearing is set within the next couple of days. If you're arrested by summons, then the preliminary hearing will be set, and that will also be your preliminary arraignment. Typically, when they arrest you by summons, they don't have the fear of you not showing up for court, so your preliminary arraignment, your preliminary hearing it, odds are, you're gonna get a nominal bond, which means you don't have to post any money or pay money or even go to the jail. At your preliminary hearing, that's where two things need to be proven" one, that a crime was committed, two: you're more likely the person who committed the crime. Credibility is not an issue, so you can't go in there say it was self-defense.

Frank Walker:

That person's lying, that cops lying... none of that. It's whether or not there's enough evidence to move forward. Are you the person who committed the crime, is it more likely that you are the person who committed a crime and can they prove that enough to move forward to go to common police? After the preliminary hearing, there is a formal arraignment where it's just paperwork where a judge gets assigned, you get the motion for your discovery, which is all the police reports and the information against you. Then after that, a pre-trial conference is assigned. You go in on a Friday with your attorney, you set a time for a plea or a trial, is that trial gonna be a jury trial or non jury trial. After that, you have your trial date. If your trial date is successful, you go home after a not guilty verdict. If there is a plea arrangement, you take the plea and you move forward to sentencing. If you take a plea or are found guilty at trial, you have option of moving for a pre-sentence report, which gives the court a document that shows all your history... Right before they sentence you, so they have all the factors before they sentence you, so that is the process in Pennsylvania for the criminal arrest process.

Rob Rosenthal:

Let's back up a little bit, right around at the beginning, we were talking about the preliminary hearing or preliminary arrangements. Is that the kind of thing, somebody... They can do that on their own, and then depending on how that turns out, then they get an attorney... What's your recommendation in?

Frank Walker:

My recommendation is you do not go to either the arraignment or if you can help it. Don't go to her arraignment without an attorney, but definitely don't go to a preliminary hearing without an attorney... And here's why. Everyone typically is in a room at the same time, and you start to hear and see different things to different results from different cases, and you start to expect that that result is gonna be your result, you think, Oh, the officer is not gonna show up I've heard that all the time. Typically, they do show up. The witnesses are gonna show up... I hear that all the time. Typically, they do. So a lot of times people think, Oh, I can go to a prelimary hearing, hearing the witness is not gonna show up, the cops not gonna show up, they're gonna drop it, they don't have enough evidence. I hear all those excuses and potential defenses, you definitely want an attorney there because a lot of times you can negotiate lower crimes, you can negotiate crimes that will be changed, or you can even have a hearing and have the charges dismissed, all of some of the charges dismissed. You do not wanna show up for preliminary hearing without an attorney, because if you have to have a hearing, you wanna make sure that your attorney knows what to ask, more importantly what not to ask, because you don't wanna open up the door to more information coming against you, where they can add different charges, and also you want to preserve certain evidence because testimony can help you later on on what they call a suppression motion, which we'll talk about a little bit later on. 

Rob Rosenthal:

What if somebody, you're talking about some negotiation or somebody goes out, I can negotiate with the prosecutor myself, I don't need an attorney to do that. How does that usually work out?

Frank Walker:

Usually have the person calling me from court telling me that, Hey, the officer wants to talk to you, and I'm like, Listen, I'm not retained on this case, I'm not counsel of record on this case, I can't talk to them until you and I have a conversation and I'm officially retained. So you want to do it yourself... Now you have the opportunity to understand what it's like now. If you want to postpone, if they let you postpone it, you wanna come and talk to me if we can have a conversation as an attorney and client... Yes, let's do that, but they don't let you postpone it, you're on your own, if they want to revoke your bond, they can do that if they want you to waive your case downtown and not hear any evidence, and you have no idea of what the case is about. They can make you do that. You want to make sure that you're making a smart decision, you already made a bad decision of being arrested for this crime, whether lawful, unlawful. That's not the time to make the argument about whether or not the arrest was lawful or anything that happens down the road, if you start off poorly by making two bad decisions, by making a bad decision to be involved in it and making the poor decision to not have an attorney, it can only get worse down the road.

Rob Rosenthal:

Do people still go to try... Is it just a TV thing I think I see or if people, "I'll represent myself in trial," people still try to do that?

Frank Walker:

They do, they do. And listen, I've seen some people do a very fine job, and like I'm in, let's say I'm waiting on another case, and that case goes before me and I see them representing himself, I'll go up to a matter... I said, Hey, a really good job. There are some attorneys that when they ask the questions, you ask. I still advise you get an attorney, but you handle yourself pretty well. But for the most part, that conversation rarely happens. It's typically you're as someone up there and there is rambling going on and on about stuff that does not matter, it has no relevance whatsoever, and they're really messing themselves up, so... Yeah, it does happen, unfortunately.

Rob Rosenthal:

But what about if they represent themselves in trial, are they able to then appeal a verdict or anything like that?

Frank Walker:

You can appeal, but you can't claim that you as your own attorney, acting as your own attorney was ineffective, you lose some of your rights when you represent yourself, and then try to appeal... You can't say that, Oh, I wasn't effective because I didn't know. No, you chose to represent yourself, the judge did a colloquy, which is a series of questions to make sure you understand what happens when you represent yourself, that you're responsible for learning the rules of evidence and the rules of procedure, and if you don't know them, that is your problem, because you chose to do this, it is a knowing intelligent and voluntary waiver of your right to counsel. The judge is satisfied. They're gonna move forward. If you're gonna do the smart thing, you wanna stop and think about hiring attorney immediately for representing yourself. But yes, it does happen.

Rob Rosenthal:

Always great advice. Always great information. Frank, thank you so much for answering our questions again this time. 

Frank Walker:

No problem, thanks for having me as always.

Rob Rosenthal:

So that's gonna take care of this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Pennsylvania attorney Frank Walker. I'll remind you, if you wanna talk to Frank, ask him questions of your own, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button at the top that says Ask a Lawyer and walk you right through the very simple process, or you could call the phone number there was on the screen during or conversation. Thanks for watching everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask The Lawyers.

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